Proposed bill mandates campus sexual assault reporting

G.A. bill aims to help victims, falsely accused by involving local criminal justice systems

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, January 22, 2015

A proposed sexual assault bill that would make it mandatory for universities to report sexual assault allegations involving their students or employees to law enforcement was introduced Jan. 7 to the General Assembly by Rep. Mia Ackerman, D-Cumberland and Lincoln.

Sexual assault cases in which the victim is a female student are less likely to be reported to the police than cases in which the victim is female and not a student, according to a decade-long study by the U.S. Department of Justice released in December 2014.

“This is actually an issue of national scale,” Ackerman said of sexual assault on college campuses in a Jan. 8 press release. “We have some great colleges and universities in this state, and we’re not saying they’re not equipped to handle the problem,” she said. “But our local law enforcement agencies are very well trained, equipped with special victims units and best able to handle complaints of sexual assault.”

“A lot of the times universities … want to save their reputation,” Ackerman told The Herald. Universities “might want to handle it internally so the word doesn’t get out that there was an assault.”

Ackerman said the issue of sexual assault on college campuses is of personal significance to her, since her son is in college and her daughter will soon be in college.

Though the intention behind the bill is good, the bill is too vague about institutions’ responsibilities, said Rep. Brian Newberry, R-North Smithfield and Burrillville, minority leader for the House.

“The question is: What exactly are they supposed to report?” Newberry said. “What if a student at Brown tells their friends about something that happened and one of the friends mentions it to (an administrator) … Is that a report?”

Universities will end up overreporting unless their responsibilities under state-mandated legislation are made clear, Newberry added.

“You could clearly create a situation with lots of overreporting,” said Dan Egan, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island.

“Mandatory reporting … may create an unintended consequence of dissuading people from reporting,” Egan said.

Despite these concerns, Ackerman said she intentionally made the language in the bill broad so she could “get the dialogue going on this epidemic that we have going on in the country.”

Looking ahead, Ackerman said she hopes to discuss the bill with law enforcement officials, universities and victim advocacy groups. She will be sending letters to Rhode Island colleges and universities soliciting their input on the bill in the following weeks.

“Every story has two sides to it,” Ackerman said. “To perfect a bill you really need to open a dialogue.

To stay up-to-date, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

  1. Student '15 says:

    Dan Egan is right: mandatory reporting can dissuade people from reporting. As a school already struggling with establishing a culture of trust between survivors and the administration, this law could have incredibly debilitating effects on a survivor’s ability to get help.

    • Smar Terstud says:

      Help is not available at Brown University, because its leaders aid, abet, and protect rapists while they are deluded that that is the way to protect contribution by alums into the endowment fund. Therefore, any pretense that help were available, when it is not, is a lie, and goes further in aiding, abetting, and protecting rapists on campus. Any bill is a good bill that takes this reality into account. But, what do we know anyway? Brown University is a lawless place, has an idiot as its president, and a certifiable cretin as its Chancellor.

  2. Truth About IX says:

    People who lie about being sexually assaulted will be less likely to report if they can be help accountable. Witnesses to the alleged event will be less likely to lie if they could be found guilty of perjury. Moving all sexual assault charges to the criminal system is the right solution — unless of course, you are a Rape Hysteria Apologist who, like most Title IX offices, wants increased reports — true or false. Recent studies have shown that while any sexual assault is serious, it is not a widespread problem. The Department of Justice reported in December that 6.1 in 1,000 college women suffers assault even with a very loose definition including forced kissing. The current pandemic is not about assault, but rather false accusations. A Purdue study showed that 41% of assault claims were false. An Air Force study showed that 46% of its cases were false reports. At the University of North Carolina, over two years there were 14 cases adjudicated under the biased and unconstitutional Titie IX system — 9 were unfounded. Send all sexual assault claims to the police where we have over 200 years of case law and due process for both claimants and respondents. One interesting statistic is that over the last three years 72% of the $36M in Title IX insurance claims have been paid to wrongly accused men.

    • I've had to do it, have you? says:

      Spoken like someone who’s never dealt with a victim. Who are you to tell a victim how she or he should deal with their assault? Do you know the first thing about victim trauma?

      I don’t disagree that false claims happen. Forcing mentally, emotionally, and psychologically fragile rape survivors to the police- many of whom don’t have a great track record of victim services themselves- is not how to handle a sexual assault situation. If you knew anything about the topic, you’d know that.

      PS, 89% of statistics on the internet are made up.

      • Here’s the one thing I don’t understand. If the police are so bad at victim services – why aren’t we (and I don’t just mean Brown her) investing more in improving the police force in contrast to the university adjudication system? Wouldn’t the best option be that the police be improved and they be the ones to handle it rather than the university?

        I mean the university can and should provide counseling and such but why isn’t this nationwide energy that exists to try and clean up university conduct hearings being put towards cleaning up the police? Wouldn’t having these people arrested and hopefully convicted be better than simply being suspended or dismissed from school (often without having to disclose why exactly)?

Comments are closed. If you have corrections to submit, you can email The Herald at